Kate and Wills seem to have their spaniel Lupo on best behaviour around Prince George. So, what’s the best way to introduce your dog to your baby?
Curling up on the sofa with you, chewing on anything he finds, jumping up when you walk through the door… all habits your dog has that don’t bother you. But, with a baby on the way, it’s time to get these habits in check.
1. Create boundaries
To a dog, any changes in the home can seem enormous, so it’s best to introduce them early and gradually. ‘If certain areas are to become off-limits, install baby gates in advance. Then start implementing boundary rules before bringing your baby home,’ says Ali Taylor, head of canine welfare training at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
Applying double-stick tape to the furniture could discourage him from jumping on it – you wouldn’t sit there if you got an instant wax either, would you?
If your baby’s already arrived, it’s not too late to put limits in place. Be consistent even if he finds them confusing at first, and reward good behaviour.
2. New sounds and smells
Introduce your baby’s items into your home before he or she arrives, so your dog has time to get used to the smell. You can also get a baby sound CD – play one while you do some obedience commands with your dog and gradually increase the volume over a few weeks so he gets used to behaving when he hears it.
After the birth, ask your partner to bring home a onesie your baby has worn so your dog can familiarise himself with the new scent.
3. The first meeting
Keep the first encounter between your dog and baby calm and not forced, rewarding good behaviour with praise and treats.
‘Get someone else to take your dog for a walk beforehand so he gets rid of some energy,’ says Ali. ‘Then do the introduction in a neutral place, not where your dog sleeps or eats. Never scold or punish him if he appears uncomfortable – just remove him from the situation and try another time.’
Supervise all interaction, even when your dog seems to have adjusted to your baby – animals can be unpredictable, as can small children.
4. Give him quality time
As a new mum, your focus will be firmly on your baby. So if you’re usually the one who spends the most time with your pup, encourage your partner to develop a closer relationship with him, so he still feels loved and cared for when you’re busy with your baby.
And try not to banish him outside, even if he’s getting in the way. ‘Your dog doesn’t understand what is going on,’ says Ali, ‘Even though you have less time for him, when you do spend time together try to make it fulfilling.’ Set aside a few minutes a day to fuss over him.
5. Consider obedience training
If your dog has bad habits and you’re struggling to bust them, consider obedience classes. Even if he had them as a pup, a refresher could really help. If possible, it’s best to do this early in your pregnancy.
The main aim is to train your dog to behave calmly – remaining on the floor until you invite him onto your lap, or not jumping on furniture that may soon have a newborn on it.